The Secured Lender, June 2022 | Vol. 78 | Issue 3 | Page 34

Yoana Cervantes

Senior Field Examiner
SLR Business Credit

Yoana is a senior field examiner at SLR Business Credit (SLR). In her role, she performs field examinations for the firm’s prospective and existing borrowers in the United States, with borrowing needs from $50,000 to $30 million. Prior to joining SLR in 2019, Yoana was a field exam analyst at JPMorgan Chase (JPMC). Yoana is a strong supporter of advancing and empowering Hispanic and Latino professionals. At JPMC, she contributed to the formation and introduction of the Hispanic and Latino business resource group in the Southeast region. Most recently, she was a part of Prospanica’s New York Chapter, serving as treasurer, and leading the 2020 Virtual Mentoring Program. Yoana holds two Bachelor of Business Administration degrees – one in finance and the other in management from Kennesaw State University. She started her MBA Program at Babson College in January 2022. She currently resides in Connecticut with her husband and one-year-old son.

What is the best professional advice you have been given and how have you implemented it?

The best professional advice I’ve received is about the value of networking – of making connections and building relationships. According to CNBC, “Up to 80% of jobs are filled through personal connections, yet networking is vastly underestimated as a key to getting ahead in a career.” It’s important to note that networking doesn’t have to take place in a formal setting. The best networking relationships I’ve made throughout my career have usually taken place in informal settings.

Many people try to avoid networking, and at the beginning of my career I did too. I was intimidated at the very thought of being stuck in the same elevator as the senior leaders at my firm. What would I say to them, or what would their impression of me be? It turns out I was over worrying, since most people generally enjoy talking about themselves. Also, it didn’t hurt that I had an elevator pitch prepared for the times when we were together in the same elevator.

Networking is such a valuable tool, and it has served me greatly in my career. I ended up in my current role at SLR through networking. In 2018, when I still lived in Georgia, a recruiter reached out to me about a new career opportunity. At the time, I was happy in my current role, so I politely declined speaking about new opportunity. Fast forward a year later, I got married and ended up moving to Connecticut with my husband. I remember thinking, how in the world am I going to find a job here, where I don’t know anyone; my network is in Georgia. That’s when I remembered speaking with the recruiter a year ago. I sent her a message via LinkedIn, not really expecting she would know of any opportunities in Connecticut. And lo and behold, within a week, we had an interview scheduled, and within a month, I started at SLR. I can’t speak enough about the power of networking.

How do you define a good leader?

A good leader is self-aware, consistently works on their personal development, and is willing to develop and mentor others. By being self-aware and consistently working on their personal development, a good leader can adapt to the current situation or environment faster, is more resilient at tacking any problems that arise, and is more accepting of others’ feedback, knowing that they do not have all the answers and/ or that there may be a better way of doing things. However, at the same time, a good leader also knows that he or she is only as good as the people around them. It is important to elevate and empower others along the way.

What advice do you normally give to the junior talent you mentor?

The advice I normally give to the junior talent is to ask for regular, consistent feedback – and not just from their direct manager. The annual review is a great time to cover any achievements and/or any areas of improvement, but unfortunately, it only happens once a year. Imagine how much you could improve in a year if you could receive feedback quarterly instead of yearly. By the time the annual review comes around, you would have already made any adjustments and gotten the necessary coaching and training to improve and be even more successful! I also recommend they ask for feedback from other people at their company, such as those they are working with or have worked with.